My new Alliance toon, Lantanna (yes, theme), is introducing me to new worlds in WoW, so to speak. Not only do I get entirely new quest areas and lines at low levels (new content!), it seems that many other new quests are sprinkled in with the old. Also, new instances (Gnomeregan!) and of course, new places that are now safe, as opposed to “enemy territory.” Ahhhh, Stormwind.
So Stormwind. Imagine all the swords & horses fantasy cities you’ve ever read about combined together into one seamless whole. Cobblestone streets, thatched roofs, majestic cathedral square and sweeping castle complete with vaulted ceilings. Odd shops tucked into corners, shady characters lurking behind pillars. A trio of girls practising magic in a grassy square, medieval knights standing guard.
If you’ve ever wished yourself into a classic fantasy book, this place is probably what you envisioned.
What makes Stormwind so amazing to me is not that it is more detailed or better thought out than Horde cities. Rather, it is a sense of familiarity in the place. Horde cities felt novel, a bit. Places I learned about in the game. Stormwind feels referential; that is, I have read so many books about similar places that I feel I am suddenly in those books, moving around a space that was before only in my imagination. It’s amazing.
Folks who have long played Alliance are used to this, of course. They probably have stopped seeing the cool purple thatched roofs of the Mage’s Quarter and pay no more attention to elegance of the cathedral. They see instead mostly the functional: here’s the bank, there the weapons trainer, the auction house is there, get to the (omg so cool) tram to Ironforge.
But exploring these new-to-me cities has reminded me of the simply incredible visuals of this game. They are awe-inspiring.
We have to stop “seeing” the amazing animation and backdrop in order to get through the game, of course. Just as in our offline lives, we develop paths through these spaces that include what we need, and we stop noticing quite so much the roses and sunsets along the way. We develop a set of meanings to spaces that align with our lives, but we can’t possibly spare the immense attention it would take to notice every pixel (or blossom) along our way.
This game is on of the things that sometimes makes me pause and think, I’m living in the future. Gibson’s cyberworld is here, the gadgets we can use every day are peppered throughout books I’ve read from years ago, the political and moral questions we face were once imaginings of science fiction writers of all sorts: cloning, survellience, online lives, plugged in teenagers… you name it.
Although, I admit I’m still waiting on the transporter.